MasterChef Crowns 5 Northeast Chefs For American Regional Cook-Off

"MasterChef" Season 13, dubbed "United Tastes of America," makes the competition personal and regional. The popular program's latest spin pits entire regions of the country against each other as chefs strive to win the coveted white apron. Each episode focuses on a specific part of the country: Northeast, Midwest, West, and South. The winners of each round will compete against each other for a prize that gives glory to both the winner and their region. Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, and Joe Bastianich are the season's judges, assisted by guest chef Daphne Oz in the inaugural episode. "United Tastes of America" whittled down the competition to just five chefs, who will go on to represent the Northeast. 

Richie, Nina, Purvi, Brynn, and Ryan were the lucky winners of the first round. Marylander Richie prepared a glazed salmon with roasted potatoes, earning him a thumbs up from Oz, Sánchez, and Ramsay, while Bastianich thought his dish was too simple and refused to get on board. Nina, from Maine, made venison and bok choy ravioli, eliciting an enthusiastic thumbs up from Oz and Ramsay. While Sánchez saw some issues, he also saw a lot of potential in Nina, but she couldn't win Bastianich over. 

Ryan from New Jersey presented a simple but well-executed plate of filet mignon with a "Samurai Egg and Avocado Snake," receiving three thumbs up from three judges, who found the contestant's personal story highly compelling. This time, Sánchez dissented, underwhelmed by Ryan's steak.

United Tastes of America Episode 1 saw some chefs go big and some go home

Purvi and Brynn were lucky to receive accolades from all four judges. Purvi whipped up sweet vanilla bundt cakes with Indian flavors. Her use of cardamom and cinnamon stood out to the group, and she passed the white apron test with flying colors. We're guessing she's got a lot of bundt cake-making tricks — like how to get them out of the pan — up her sleeve. Brynn, a long-time bartender, took the savory route, cooking harissa sea bass with pear and dried cherry chutney, which Joe Bastianich described as "naive" but also called the dish "astonishing." 

Not everyone was so lucky. Ross, Carla, and Eddie did not progress to the next round. Ross' molten lava cakes were deemed a technical failure, Carla's crawfish and shrimp manicotti didn't meet the judges' standards, and Eddie's pistachio tres leches cake didn't quite cut it. Nevertheless, there was a silver lining to Eddie's disappointment: Bastianich made a point to encourage Eddie in his culinary pursuits and told him he could come and work at one of his restaurants in a remarkable moment of tenderness. 

Daphne Oz began the show by referring to the Northeast as "a melting pot," and the dishes on offer reflected a variety of approaches rather than a distinctly Northeastern flair. Time will tell whether future episodes of "MasterChef" Season 13 turn toward more featuring regional dishes from each contestant as the competition heats up.